Energy Efficient Innovations

Energy InnovationNote from Marla 

– as I was listening to the podcast for any final edits to Tony’s write-up, I had a vivid flashback on the topic of home control.  Do you remember the movie PillowTalk with Doris Day and Rock Hudson?  There is a scene in his “bachelor pad” where the stereo turns on, the lights turn off and a few other things happen at the flick of a switch, conveniently located from the sofa!  While home control and automation has been around awhile, a lot has changed too. Now read more on really cool energy efficient innovations! 


Now compare this scenario, or even your parents’ home growing up, with what we can do today? While the systems are similar, the look, operation and efficiency has become quite different. Homes are like other products in the market, as technology changes so does the operation and efficiency of the systems in your home. Convenience, safety and energy efficiency can be achieved through today’s innovations, including home control and automation, smart appliances and renewable energy. This is great for the homeowner.

The Thermostat Is The Perfect Example of Energy Efficient Innovations

Let’s look at today’s thermostat. Just a couple decades ago, you still had your basic dial thermostat. It allowed you to switch from heat to cool, and set a general temperature in the home…and that’s it. Now think of the thermostat of today. It could be your basic 7-day programmable thermostat, which allows the homeowner to start using less energy at certain times of the day. Or, it could be a smart thermostat like a Nest. This allows the homeowner to connect to the thermostat remotely with a smart phone. With the simple touch of a finger, I can change the temperature from 10, 100 or 1000 miles away. The other cool feature of the Nest thermostat is that it learns your habits over time, and starts automatically programming itself based on those learned behaviors.

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The last kind of thermostat is the most efficient of them all. It is the thermostat which is tied to a central automation system. While this thermostat will operate in the same fashion as a Nest, what separates it from the rest is its ability to integrate with other systems in the house. Through the main controller for the automation system, the thermostat can now work in conjunction with light switches, security systems, garage door openers, and front door locks. Scenes can be set such as an “away from home” mode. In this, when the security system is armed, the thermostat automatically adjusts the temperature to reflect no one is in the house.

Control and Automation Are Not The Same

Most people think that control and automation are the same thing, but in fact, they are not. Control means a person can control a device remotely from a smart phone; but automation means not only can a device be controlled remotely, but it will also interact with other devices in a specifically designed sequence of events. This is where automation truly starts to affect the efficiency of a home. No longer, will it be something for a homeowner to think about. Instead, the home will automatically adjust based on the programmed commands.

Today’s Home Is A Technological Ecosystem!

Today’s home is, in fact, a technological ecosystem where systems interact with each other to give the homeowner a customized experience that will increase their happiness and satisfaction with this home. What are some examples of this? First off, programming the home so when you wake up in the morning, the porch light turns off, the coffee pot starts to brew, shades and blinds start to raise or lower, the thermostat sets to a pre-determined temperature, and interior lights turn on and dim to a preset level to light a pathway in your dark home while also saving electricity and increasing the lifespan of the bulb. This is what we mean by the term automation. Not only does automation help save money on utility bills, it also gives valuable psychological and emotional benefits as well. Energy efficiency is not about having less. It can be about having what you want when you need it, and not having it when you don’t need it.

The amount of technology available to today’s homeowners is scary when you think about it. The crazy thought is not how much technology is available today, but how much technology will be available tomorrow. We have just started scratching the surface of technological systems in the home, and that’s a good thing, because while we may not be able to control the users of the home, we can control how the users use the home. You can start simple and small, especially if you have an existing home. As you live in a home, technology can be added to fully automate the home because today’s automation systems can be retro fitted into the home.

The Internet of Things?

One of the newer terms that we hear today when discussing home technology is the “Internet of Things” or IOT. This helps solidify the belief that the homes of today are a technological ecosystem, where the refrigerator, the oven, the washer/dryer and the car are all tied to the internet of things…just like The Jetsons. As all these devices are tied to the home system and the internet, the devices are in constant communication with the manufacturer. This way, when the device starts to fail, it sends signals to the manufacturer to begin being proactive about repairing or replacing the device. Now, the downside to homeowners is the fact that your information is going out on the internet. This brings about security fears to some. This is where an automation system with a controller helps to add extra levels of security to help protect homeowner information.

Smart appliances, while tied to the internet of things, can communicate with the utility company and can be programmed to run when energy rates are at their lowest. (Note from Marla – we have this kind of thermostat in our new home in Oklahoma City.) While this would not really apply to the refrigerator, the dishwasher would know exactly when the optimal time to run would be.  This helps save energy and money for the homeowner.

So does tying in renewable energy into the home technology system. Most renewable energy for residential construction is solar. As good as the solar panels have become, the missing piece has always been the battery to allow storage in the home. As the batteries get better and allow for more storage in the home, solar will be more accepted because the homeowner will be using energy produced during the day at night, instead of pulling electricity off the grid. This also helps with downed power lines as well. When the power goes out, the home can use the energy stored in the batteries to power the house.

Tesla is the company that is really trying to push the envelope and get more and more of these technologies to the market. Their battery can store 3 days’ worth of energy with a goal of 1 week. Tesla is also bringing solar roofing tiles to market. These can take the place of traditional roofing shingles and solar panels. This could be a game changer. By tying renewable to a home automation system, not only can we see what is being used by each individual device, we can see how much energy is being produced as well.

The innovation in technology is leading to more energy efficient homes. From control of devices to the automation of systems, technology is leading the way to helping homeowners live more energy efficient lives. Automation allows homeowners not have to think about their usage and just automate those behaviors. As we have said, technology can’t control who uses the home, but technology can control how the home is used.


Shopping for Smart Thermostats, This Old House

Nest Thermostat

Internet of Things

Smart Appliances

Tesla Solar Roof

Tesla PowerWall (battery)

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